The last episode of Mad Men aired in May of 2015, ending a show that brought viewers an intimate, retro look at the world of the 1960s. The series received almost entirely positive critical praise throughout its seven season run, and each of the 92 episodes brought great ratings to its home network, AMC.
Although the show is over, that doesn’t mean fans of the show have stopped caring about the lives, loves and adventures of its characters. If you’re a Mad Men fan who wants to stay immersed in the fantastic world created by the show—or just wants to know more about the workings behind this award winning modern period drama—then take a look at some interesting and sometimes surprising trivia that will make you the envy of your fellow Mad Men devotees.
The show was not originally pitched to AMC
AMC was not the first network people thought of when it came to period dramas, especially modern period dramas without a hint of unreality. Not surprisingly, then, it wasn’t AMC that the show’s creative team made their initial pitch to: it was HBO! HBO has been home to many different types of dramas, but the network decided to pass on Mad Men. AMC eventually bid on the show and the rest is AMC ratings history.
The ‘smog incident’ was based on real events
Dark Shadows, episode 9 in the show’s fifth season, is perhaps one of the most polarizing episode in the show’s history. The episode was alternatively praised and criticized for its usage of symbolism to address the growing jealous and insecurity in the character’s lives, particularly in between Betty and Don, and Don and the newest star of the agency.
One of the ways the episode symbolized the poisonous atmosphere the characters were living in was through an actual toxic atmosphere. Megan makes a remark about the radio saying there was a ‘smog emergency,’ and that the air was toxic. This wasn’t just a random symbolic addition to the story—New York City had frequent increases in deadly smog, including one in the real year Dark Shadows was set in; that year, about 300 people are estimated to have died due to the smog.
Roger was almost killed off in season 1
Roger Sterling, played by John Slatterly, was almost killed off at some point during the show’s first season. The reason, according to creator Matthew Weiner, was that John Slatterly had another acting job lined up and was unsure if he could commit to doing Mad Men as well. Slatterly ended up wanting to stay with the show, and the character was left to live another day.
Peggy didn’t leave the company for $19,000 (technically)
Some fans of the show took to social media when Peggy finally decided to leave the company. Not because they were upset with her decision–although to this day her departure is a sore point for some fans–but because they felt she left the company for ‘beans,’ meaning nothing at all. In the episode, it is revealed that Peggy left on the promise of $19,000. While leaving a high-paying, fairly secure job for ‘only’ $19,000 would be unheard of today, Peggy wasn’t leaving for $19,000 in today’s money: converted for inflation, Peggy left the company for about $131,000!
The “Blackface Scene” created in-house controversy
In My Old Kentucky Home, Roger Sterling performs a song in Blackface in front of an exclusive country club. The act is not seen as outrageous by the characters–who are still firmly entrenched in 1960s society–but the scene did create some controversy within the Mad Men staff itself.
Several of the writers for the episode did not want their names attached to that particular episode, and were allowed to excuse themselves from working on that particular scene. John Slatterly thought that the scene might end his acting career. Show creator Michael Weiner knew the scene would be controversial, but felt it was necessary to remind audiences of the everyday racism that would have been acceptable in that type of 1960s high society setting.
The show is set in New York City—filming is not
The show does a pretty good job of hiding its real location, but the New York City of Mad Men is a far cry from the real New York—literally. The show was filmed almost completely in Los Angeles, with one exception: the pilot episode of the show filmed on location in New York. After the show was given the greenlight for the full season, the decision was made to film in Los Angeles. The decision was made for several reasons, including the fact that filming in Los Angeles is cheaper than filming on location in New York City; additionally, the show’s cast would have had to relocate to New York if they decided to film the show entirely on location in the city.
The cigarettes are all fake
There’s no denying that one of the show’s staples are its dedication to authenticity, which includes a tremendous amount of cigarettes, which were commonplace in the workplace in 1960—especially high-end agencies and firms where stress, and pressure, was high. However, the cigarettes in the show are all fake; some of the cast members do actually smoke, however there is a California law on the books which completely bans smoking tobacco cigarettes in the workplace. The cigarettes used in the show are fake cigarettes from a brand that creates nicotine-free, toxin-free herbal “cigarettes.”
Joan’s ‘signature walk’ was not deliberate
One of Joan’s signature characteristics is her signature walk, but actress Christina Hendricks revealed in a behind-the-scenes interview that the walk was not a deliberate acting choice on her part. Instead, it was the result of Hendricks actually having trouble walking in the tight, constricting dresses combined with high heels that her character wore on the show. Although she eventually got the hang of it, she kept the ‘signature walk’ that had become an iconic part of her character.